Titans' top executive: NFL can't force team to sell

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans CEO and president Steve Underwood declined to detail the NFL’s objection to the team’s ownership structure, but said the league cannot force Bud Adams’ heirs to sell the franchise.

As he visited with my Nashville radio show, The Midday 180, we asked Underwood if the league can dictate such a thing

“Well I’ve never heard of that and the league has certainly never mentioned that to me, so I think my answer would be no,” he said. “It’s not a road we’re going down. As I say it’s never been mentioned to me as even a possibility.”

He called the ownership structure issue “a private matter that doesn’t directly impact the day-to-day operations of our franchise.”

Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk has taken a very strong hand in just nine months in the post, he said, firing Ken Whisenhunt and parting with GM Ruston Webster and hiring replacements.

Underwood said he forwarded a letter to the league in the last week about the structure issue and they are in regular conversations with them.

“It’s a very high-level conversation,” he said. “It’s not something we consider to be a problem. It’s something that we are working through, just like any other business problem.”

The choice of interim coach Mike Mularkey as the full-time head coach was greeted with widespread disgust in Nashville. We were curious if Strunk and Underwood anticipated the negative reaction of fans and if they factor such things into their decisions.

“We have tickets to sell, we have suites to sell, we have sponsorships to sell,” Underwood said. “So what fans think has some level of importance. At the same time, we can’t take a poll of our season ticket holders to make decisions about what direction we’re going to go with respect to football. It’s something though that you want to take into account.”

New GM Jon Robinson concluded Monday’s press conference with a plea for a chance from fans as the team moves forward.

While Robinson looked ahead, Underwood offered something that felt like an organizational mea culpa about the last two years, during which the team was 5-27.

"Clearly, we are not getting the job done,” Underwood said. “We made that clear to all the head coaching candidates and all of the GM candidates. We can't continue to do this. We're going to have to get better. And we needed for them to lay out a path and a vision for us to improve. Because, as you suggest, we are in the lower quartile of the league in terms of competitive success.

“That's unacceptable. That's the reason Amy has gotten rid of our head coach and our GM and hired new people. We can't continue on the path that we're on. We have to get better and we have to start showing improvement right away."